We Celebrate The Jungle Book As Rudyard Kipling Turns 150

Happy Birthday, Mr Kipling. To mark the occasion, we take a look at a few little-known facts about his much loved collection of jungle stories...

This month marks 150 years since the birth of popular writer, Rudyard Kipling, in Mumbai. To celebrate this milestone, we look back at his most treasured work – and a children’s classic: The Jungle Book.

There is something special about Kipling’s tales of a young feral boy called Mowgli, raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. Over a century later, its exoticism has lost none of its appeal. These short stories are essentially moral fables for children, ‘The Laws of the Jungle’ an allegory for individual morality within the wider community. Contrary to kater adaptations, it’s an intense read.

And yet, thanks to the 1967 Disney Classic, its playfulness always wins out. We still can’t resist singing ‘The Bare Necessities’ whenever we think of Baloo the Bear.

To celebrate, we decided to find out some little known facts about the 1894 classic:

1. The Scouts Love It

The Jungle Book has been used as a motivational text by the Club Scouts for some time now. In fact, the Scouts founder personally asked Kipling’s permission to use one of the stories to help motivate fitness. Akela, the head wolf in The Jungle Book, is also the name given to every Scout pack leader.

2. It Was Dedicated To His Daughter

A few years ago in 2010, a handwritten note was discovered in an 1894 first edition of the stories. It was addressed to his daughter and read: ‘This book belongs to Josephine Kipling for whom it was written by her father, May 1894.’ Heartbreakingly, she died only five years later in 1899 at the tender age of six.

3. Marvel Comics Love It

Marvel Comics published several Jungle Book adaptations collected in one 2007 edition – Marvel Illustrated: The Jungle Book.

4. So Does Neil Gaiman…

Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is inspired by The Jungle Book. In it, a baby boy is discovered and raised by the dead in a cemetery.

5. There Are Actually Two Books

The Second Jungle Book was written published a year later in 1895 and even includes a tale about an Inuit boy who adventures out across the Arctic ice, guided by the mysterious animal-spirit Quiquern.

6. Walt Disney Threw It Out

Walt Disney reportedly told his animation crew to throw Rudyard Kipling’s book away. He considered their original storyboards too dark for a children’s film.

7. Keeping It In The Family

The original publication contains illustrations by Rudyard’s father, John Lockwood Kipling.

8. It Inspired Tarzan

Mowgli was reportedly a significant influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character Tarzan. Kipling wasn’ exactly pleased with the result. In his own words at the time, he lambasted Burrough’s attempt calling it a ‘bad attempt’.

9. Shere Linguistics

Shere Khan’s name is quite literal. The word Shere translates as ‘tiger’ or ‘lion’ in Persian, Urdu, and Punjabi, and Khan translates as ‘sovereign’, ‘king’, or ‘military leader’.

10. Gender Fluid Panthers

In an animated Soviet version, Adventures of Mowgli, Bagheera the blank panther is portrayed as a female.

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